Rob Lloyd Jones’s debut novel, WILD BOY, just came out on Sept. 24th, and he was kind enough to stop by and tell us a little about it, and more! Please welcome Rob to the blog!
Will you tell us a little about your new book, Wild Boy?
I’d love to! Wild Boy is the story of a young performer on a Victorian freak show – a boy entirely covered in hair– who is also a master detective. Framed for a crime, he goes on the run with a teenage circus acrobat called Clarissa, in a quest to prove their innocence. It’s a thrilling detective tale, with murder, mystery and mysterious machines that suck out people’s souls. So, something for everyone. Assuming everyone likes those three things…
You have a long career in writing, including lots of historical goodies, but what ultimately inspired you to write Wild Boy?
Wild Boy really began with a book called Seventy Years a Showman – the memoir of a Victorian circus owner called Lord George Sanger. I adored Sanger’s tales of freak shows fairs and travelling fairs, and kept picturing one of the performers – a boy covered in hair – spying on the crowds and dreaming of being ‘normal’. I realised he would create stories of their lives from tiny details he spotted on their faces and clothes…He would be a detective.
Why do you think readers will root for Wild Boy and Clarissa?
A lot of people have said they love them because they feel sorry for them, and I get that – they have had incredibly hard lives. But I hope that’s not what your readers think. Wild Boy and Clarissa would never feel sorry for themselves. They are fairgrounders; they don’t believe in self-pity. Instead they make a plan – a crazy plan that’s as likely to get them killed as it is to save them – and they just go for it. They are not fearless – in fact, they are very frightened – but they are determined. That’s what I love about them, and I hope readers will too.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I was addicted to research! I read newspaper reports and journalists such as Charles Dickens or Henry Mayhew, who walked around London describing things in amazing detail. I also hung out around London, holding up paintings of how places looked when Wild Boy was there. I even acted out some of the scenes, if I thought I could get away with it.
What is your writing process like? Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I am a plotter! I can’t begin a new story unless I know how it will end. I used to be ashamed of that – it felt like a dirty secret. But now I don’t care. It doesn’t matter how you do it. You can plot every chapter, make it up as you go, sing it to a typist, or wait for it to come to you in a dream. All that matters is what happens when your reader opens the book and begins to read.
The cover art for Wild Boy is gorgeous! Do you think it accurately captures the spirit of the book?
Thank you! The artwork was by the brilliant Owen Davey, who I think got the tone just right. It has a slightly menacing feel, and is little bit grubby, which is terrific. I also like that we don’t see Wild Boy’s face. That lets readers come up with their own idea of how he looks. That was important to me.
In your bio it says that your favorite books are Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce. Have you read any good books recently?
Lots! Mostly I read a non-fiction, especially stories of explorers. A few recent gems have been Explorers of the Nile by Tim Jeal, The Rape of the Nile by Brian Fagan. I’ve just finished Geraldine McCaughren’s take on the Arabian Nights, and adored it. She is a wonderful, wonderful writer. And I adore Robert McFarlane’s work. The Old Ways had me mesmerized. I’ll never walk a footpath the same way again.
You were born in the states but moved to England when you were very young. What were some of your favorite things about living abroad?
To be honest I moved to the UK when I was very young, so I don’t feel like I experienced life in the US. So I am only qualified to say that I very much enjoyed wearing American nappies. Sorry, diapers. I’ve been back to the US lots, and love every bit of your country. I especially love the food. Sandwiches in the UK are drab affairs. But your delis have raised them to an art form.
Ok, you’ve got to tell us about that roll of tape that you carry around in your pocket…
Ha ha – it’s in my pocket even as I type. It’s a lucky symbol. I’m not a superstitious guy, but for some reason I break out in cold sweats if I don’t have this roll of tape in my pocket. It’s been with me since I was eleven years old. I just sound weird now, right?
What’s next for you, this year and beyond?
Good question! I’ve just handed in a new draft of Wild Boy and the Black Terror – the sequel. It takes Wild Boy and Clarissa’s story and ups the stakes in ways that really excite me. There’s also a Wild Boy movie being planned! I just read the screenplay and it’s looking great, I love what they’ve done. So fingers crossed. I really hope to write more Wild Boy adventures, but also have plans for something else, also historical but a little different. It’s bad luck to say much more, but I can’t stop thinking about it – even in my sleep – so I suspect that might be the very next thing I write.
About WILD BOY:
Murder mystery meets carnival flair in a rollicking Victorian adventure centered on a boy with a unique appearance — and unique gifts.
In the seedy underworld of Victorian London, a boy is born and abandoned. Snatched up by an unscrupulous and abusive showman, Wild Boy, covered in hair from head to toe, becomes a sideshow freak. Isolated from other children and wickedly abused by the cruel master who bought him, Wild Boy becomes an avid observer, developing Sherlock Holmes–like deductive skills. Although he is tormented and insulted, kicked and spat at, his quick mind takes in everything he sees. When a murder occurs at the fair, Wild Boy is hastily accused. Can he use his powers of deduction to save himself? And will the talented and spunky young acrobat Clarissa be with him — or against him? Readers will be swept along by the cinematic pace, immersed in the vivid historical setting, and gripped by suspense as they wait to find out if a better fate could possibly await someone so very different.